MPs state that sexual education must engage boys to combat harassment

According to a group of legislators, engaging boys and young men in sexual education classes is necessary to combat the "scourge" of sexual harassment and violence in schools. The Women and Equalities Committee's investigation revealed that relationships, sex, and health education (RSHE) is "less applicable" to boys than to girls.

It proposes that courses be made mandatory in sixth forms and colleges. According to the government, additional guidance is being developed for institutions. The investigation revealed that some schools were still ignoring the problem of violence against women and girls, while others lacked the resources and time to effectively deliver RSHE. The committee warned that young people are taking their first steps into the adult world "undersupported and less equipped" to navigate potentially "dangerous situations."

Their investigation revealed that simple access to pornography had "completely altered the playground culture" and was having a "very corrosive effect within schools." In one session, participants heard accounts of males "cyberflashing hardcore pornographic images at girls in the hallway and airdropping nude images to other students in class." Several witnesses stated that boys were unlikely to participate in RSHE learning if they were embarrassed or placed on the spot.

As part of its review of sex education, the committee is requesting that the government devise a specific strategy for engaging with boys and young men on the topics of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. It is suggested that all teachers receive training on how to engage masculine students in conversations that "challenge prevailing gender norms" and ideas of masculinity.

As part of its inspections, Ofsted should investigate the level of maltreatment experienced by female school staff, according to the report. A sexual violence awareness campaign aimed at male college students, as well as a mandate for universities to combat harassment. Principals must do more to combat detrimental mobile phone use in schools.

In 2021, thousands of school-aged children posted online accounts of sexual assault and harassment in schools as part of a movement dubbed Everyone's Invited. "Whilst there have been some positive steps since the Everyone's Invited movement exposed how widespread the problem is, there is clearly more to do to improve safeguarding and education," said Caroline Nokes, the head of the committee.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), stated that the problems identified by the committee "reach far beyond the school gates" and that "the onus cannot just be on schools to solve" However, he applauded the demand for increased resources and support in order to "ensure that all school staff are equipped to deal with the challenges they are facing."

An official from the Department of Education stated that more guidelines was being developed to assist schools in their efforts to "engage boys and young men about misogyny and sexual violence in education." According to the official, "Through the Online Safety Bill, technology firms will be required to enforce their age limits and protect children from being exposed to harmful material online." This requirement will come about as a result of the Online Safety Bill.